US stocks mixed in early trading; oil up

U.S. stock indexes drifted between small gains and losses in early trading Wednesday following mixed signals from Europe and Asia overnight. Technology and health care stocks were among the biggest gainers, while consumer-focused stocks and utilities companies were among the laggards.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average slipped 16 points, or 0.1 percent, to 18,521 as of 10:02 a.m. Eastern time. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose less than one point to 2,186. The Nasdaq composite index added 5 points, or 0.1 percent, to 5,281.

ECONOMIC RED FLAGS: A run of weak U.S. data has weighed on sentiment in markets in recent sessions. The soft data has reduced expectations that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates again soon — a potential boon for stocks. However, worries over the U.S. economy have ratcheted up fears about the outlook and the earning power of companies — and that’s bad for stocks.

SUPERMARKET SLUMP: Shares in some supermarket operators were down sharply. Sprouts Farmers Markets fell $3.65, or 16 percent, to $19.16, after the company cut its guidance, citing falling food prices and rising discounts. Whole Foods slid $1.74, or 5.7 percent, to $28.96, while Kroger lost $1.27, or 3.9 percent, at $31.40.

NO FUN: Dave & Buster’s Entertainment fell 2.6 percent after the restaurant and arcade chain reported weaker-than-anticipated sales. The company also lowered its same-store sales growth outlook for the rest of the year. The stock shed $1.29 to $44.98

ACKMAN EFFECT: Chipotle Mexican Grill climbed 5.7 percent after Bill Ackman’s investment firm Pershing Square said it has acquired a 9.9 percent stake in the struggling restaurant chain. The stock rose $23.50 to $437.01.

EUREKA: Apache Corp. surged 12.8 percent after the oil and gas company said it will start working this year to extract crude from a newly discovered major oil field in Texas. The stock added $6.63 to $58.30.

THANKS FOR THE MEMORY: Shares in digital storage drive manufacturers Western Digital and Seagate Technology were moving higher. Western Digital rose $2.79, or 5.9 percent, to $50.34, while Seagate added $1.03, or 3 percent, to $35.50.

MARKETS OVERSEAS: In Europe, France’s CAC 40 was up 0.4 percent, while Germany’s DAX was up rose 0.6 percent. Britain’s FTSE 100 was up 0.2 percent. Earlier in Asia, Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index lost 0.4 percent. South Korea’s Kospi and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng each dipped 0.2 percent. The Shanghai Composite Index in mainland China climbed less than 0.1 percent, while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.2 percent.

OIL: Benchmark U.S. crude oil futures were up 30 cents, or 0.6 percent, at $45.13 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the benchmark for international oil prices, was down 2 cents to $47.25 a barrel in London.

BONDS AND CURRENCIES: Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 1.53 percent from 1.54 late Tuesday. In currency markets, the dollar weakened to 101.53 yen from 102.08 on Tuesday. The euro was down at $1.1251 from $1.1253.